You wouldn’t go to the greengrocers to pick up a premium cut of steak, so why do clubs continue to go to the wrong shop to buy the ingredients they are looking for?
Like anyone who shops regularly, football clubs will continue to return to markets where they have a proven track record of successful purchases. This is a natural and logical step, but it means that the purchaser can become bound to a supply of limited stock. First, we need to understand why clubs continue to shop in these proven markets. Often it is due to similarity in playing style between leagues, with domestic markets proving reliable sources of players able to adapt to the league.
Let’s take the example of an EFL League One club looking to bring in a dominant centre back. Traditionally clubs look to the EFL and National League due to the similar demands that are asked of centre backs in these leagues. League One requires a centre back to contest a high volume of aerial duels, as do League Two and the National League. However, it is likely that the other 23 clubs in League One are also looking in these markets, so demand can outweigh supply which in turn drives prices up. Clubs are posed the question of; is it possible to find a centre back with these characteristics outside of the domestic market?
The answer is yes, however knowing which league to shop in is the conundrum. Understanding the demands and requirements of your own league will guide you to markets with similar characteristics. Taking the example of a dominant centre back that contests a high volume of aerial duels, there is a high correlation between the demands of League One and Fortuna National League in the Czech Republic. This is not to say that there is not value in other markets but the transition between the Fortuna National League and League One is likely to be easier for the player to make. In contrast, a centre back coming from Liga Pro in Portugal is likely to find the transition harder. This is due to centre backs in Portugal’s Pro Liga contesting 40% fewer aerial duels per 90 minutes and traditionally being less dominant.
With clubs lower down the EFL likely to feel the pinch given the current economic climate, it is going to be necessary that they become pragmatic and creative in their recruitment approach. Using a combination of data, video scouting and contacts with local agents if required. MRKT Insights can provide an in-depth understanding of markets that clubs can exploit to gain an advantage.